Legislative Advocacy

Our legislative advocacy efforts

We advocate on local, state and national levels to address underlying causes of homelessness and challenge the status quo. 

Lobby day

We close our clinics for one full day each legislative session and take our staff, clients and community partners to Annapolis to lobby lawmakers on our legislative priorities. See photos from a very successful Lobby Day 2018!

Advocacy alerts 

At critical junctures in the legislative process where we have the chance to influence a legislative outcome, we activate our community through advocacy alerts. Sign up for our emails to receive these and other important updates.

TestimonY

Our staff and clients have unique insight into the issues that drive and affect poverty, health and homelessness. That insight, in turn, can be critical to informing the course of legislation and public policy decisions. 

Our 2018 legislative priorities

  • Certification for community health workers ● Bill links: HB 490 / SB 163
  • Adult Medicaid dental benefit for adults ● Bill links: SB 284
  • Minimum wage increase ● Bill links: HB 664 / SB 543
  • Temporary Disability Assistance Program (TDAP) increase ● Bill links: HB 1615 / SB 1231

See our 2018 legislative priorities approach and detail here.

...and how they're faring

Our staff and clients have been advocating mightily this legislative session, and their voices are making a difference. Here's an update, as the sessions enters its final weeks...

TDAP: HB 1615/SB 1231

THIS IS BIG. We are the closest we’ve been in 15-plus years to making a TDAP increase happen.

The bill that would increase Maryland’s Temporary Disability Assistance Program (TDAP) benefit is halfway to becoming a reality: It passed the House of Delegates March 16 and is now in the Senate.

See details below but in short, HB 1615/SB 1231, if passed, would increase the monthly TDAP benefit to $215 a month as of July 1, 2019—up from $185 a month today and, thanks to an FY2019 budget increase, $195 as of July 1, 2018. It would then increase $8-$12 each year until it is equal to the Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA) benefit for a one-person household, or $306 a month.

But in the immediate term, we can’t leave Senate passage of the TDAP bill to chance, so we’re pushing senators hard in the days ahead, and we need your help! Here’s what you can do:

Email members of the Senate Finance Committee between now and next Wednesday with this short, urgent message: Please support HB 1615/SB 1231! And email your own senator, too, because when the bill goes to the floor for a full Senate vote, your representative’s vote in favor will be critical.

HB 1615/SB 1231—as amended—would:

  • Make TDAP an entitlement, just like Maryland’s Temporary Cash Assistance (TCA) program and Food Supplement Program (FSP)
  • Increase the benefit amount gradually over several years to bring it to the same level as the TCA benefit for a family of one, which is currently $306 a month
  • Index TDAP to TCA, which, like SNAP, is indexed to a percentage (61%) of Maryland’s Minimum Living Level

Community Health Workers certification HB 490/SB 163

We are feeling very good about this one passing.

The bill to certify community health workers passed the House of Delegates March 13. Its Senate counterpart never moved forward, but because the House version passed, that version crossed over to the Senate with amendments and is now with the Senate Finance Committee, where it will get a hearing.

HB 490/ SB 163—as amended—would:

  • Establish a State Community Health Worker Advisory Committee to advise the Department of Health on certification and training of community health workers.
  • Require that all certified community health worker training programs in the state be approved by the Department of Health. Other programs could still exist, but they could not be called certified CHW training programs.
  • Require the Department of Health to adopt regulations for accrediting community health worker training programs. 
  • Allow accreditation of apprenticeship programs by the Department of Health if they meet requirements
  • Establish voluntary certification of individual CHWs

Adult Dental Benefit: SB 284

More very good and big news...

The Senate passed the adult Medicaid benefit bill with amendments that would not create a full adult dental benefit, but instead an adult dental benefit pilot. Details still to come, but this is a huge step forward in the push for Medicaid coverage and your advocacy mattered! Now on to the House of Delegates...

Minimum Wage: HB 664/ SB 543

This bill has not made progress in either chamber since hearings in late February and early March. Stay tuned.

A couple other bills we’re watching…

End Youth Homelessness Act: HB 1224/ SB 1218

This bill requiring the Department of Housing and Community Development to administer a grant program to end youth homelessness breezed through the House of Delegates and is now in the Senate. Stay tuned!

Medicaid Coverage for Peer Recovery Services: HB 765/ SB 772

The bill to make services delivered by peer recovery specialist reimbursable through Medicaid is making its way through both chambers with amendments that do not make the services reimbursable through Medicaid, but do create a workgroup that will make recommendations on the reimbursement of certified peer recovery specialists to the governor and General Assembly by December, 2018.

medicaid and commercial insurance coverage for Hep C drugs: SB 943

The bill to require Medicaid, insurers, nonprofit health service plans and health maintenance organizations to cover FDA-approved and necessary medications for treatment of hepatitis C is not moving forward due to a hefty fiscal note. But it has raised the profile of the need to increase access to hep C treatments in the state and ups the pressure on the Department of Health to address hep C.

The House of Delegates has also generated budget language that would withhold $100,000 from the health department until it submits a hep C plan to the budget committees by July 1, 2018—in short, a step to hold the department accountable for acting on hep C. In response to the American Civil Liberties Union alerting the state in January 2018 that it would pursue legal action concerning the criteria adopted by Maryland Medicaid for access to hep C therapies, the health department stated it would develop a broad-based plan to address hep C. Together, this budget note and SB 943 hold the department's feet to the fire.

Omnibus crime bill that would criminalize addiction SB 122

This omnibus crime bill sponsored by Sen. Bobby Zirkin that passed the Senate and is now in the House Judiciary and Appropriation committees contains harmful elements that are largely overshadowed by the more prominent and publicly popular elements related to fighting violent crime. SB 122 would:

  • treat those addicted to illicit opioids as volume dealers, sending them to prison for 5 years without parole for simple possession
  • impose a mandatory minimum of 5 years for possession of 5 grams of fentanyl or 28 grams of any mixture containing any detectable fentanyl
  • make no distinction between types of fentanyl, which comes in a variety of forms—such as powder, liquid and patches—so a single weight threshold for different compounds of various strengths makes no sense
  • allow multiple acts of possessing within a 90-day period to be aggregated, meaning an addicted individual could have simple possession charges lumped together and face prosecution as a volume dealer as a result

There is strong advocacy underway by the Drug Policy Alliance, and Health Care for the Homeless has signed on in support. Stay tuned.

 

Meet your state legislators